If the Blue Jays want to add a true impact upgrade to the lineup this winter they may need to make a trade, and Randal Grichuk seems like the best bet to go.
As the Blue Jays enter the off-season, pitching continues to be the biggest need that needs to be addressed. That’s usually the case for the Jays and for the majority of teams around baseball, as you can never have too much pitching.
As for the lineup, Charlie Montoyo should feel pretty good about the group that’s set to return in 2021. Other than a potential opening at third base, you could argue that the Blue Jays could bring back the same group from 2020 and simply improve due to the experienced gained by the young core. However, I feel like there could be other ideas floating around the front office right now, and in order to make an upgrade, someone likely has to be traded.
And I believe that someone should be Randal Grichuk.
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I was pleasantly surprised with the overall season we saw from the 29-year-old, who slashed .273/.312/.481 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI over 55 games and 216 at-bats. He was his usual streaky self, but there were brief periods when he carried the offence, and his performance was one of the many reasons the Blue Jays finished with a 32-28 record. That said, he’s still not an ideal fit as the centre fielder, and there might not be a better time to trade him than right now.
I say that for a number of reasons, but let’s start with the performance on the field. I’ll admit that he was serviceable in centre this year, and is likely the best defender of the outfield trio that includes Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. However, he still rated as a -0.7 dWAR for his work with the glove, and that’s not ideal from your anchor out there.
Realistically, Grichuk is a bit over his head as a centre fielder, and would be better suited to a corner spot. However, the offensive upside from Hernandez and Gurriel Jr. means they’re not going anywhere, and the DH at-bats are going to largely fall to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Rowdy Tellez, who will also share first base duties. That means if the Blue Jays truly want to upgrade their overall defence, they either have to move on from Grichuk or sacrifice one of their corner bats, and the latter just isn’t going to happen.
There was a time when I felt like Grichuk’s contract could make him a tough player to trade, but I no longer believe that to be the case. He signed a five-year, 52 million dollar extension prior to the 2019 campaign, and the AAV (average annual value) from for the remainder of the deal is pretty manageable. Prior to the 2020 season being shortened Grichuk was supposed to make a high-point salary of 13 million in 2020, which was prorated to 5.44 million instead. From here he’ll make 10.3 million per year for the next three seasons, and his production should be enough for other teams to accept that figure.
Lastly, as much as I’ve preached the value of patience with a lot of players, I’m not so sure I believe that Grichuk will become more than what we’ve already seen from him. Again, he’s a serviceable option in centre field for 2021 and beyond, but at some point the Blue Jays are going to look to add a true upgrade to the lineup. Whether that’s by chasing potential free agents like George Springer or even Jackie Bradley Jr., or even turning to the keys over to Jonathan Davis to improve the defence, there are a few ways the Blue Jays could go. There’s also the hope that Austin Martin could end up as the long-term solution in centre at some point, although that’s likely a year or two away from now.
I won’t blame the Blue Jays at all if they mostly stand pat with their lineup ahead of the 2021 season, but if they are looking to make a significant defensive upgrade, I feel like centre field is the place to address. Given the structure of the rest of the roster, and other considerations like contract and cashing in on a possible high point of trade value, now may be the time to explore trading Grichuk.